Reiterberger: “The team has an incredible team spirit.”
Le Mans. There were big celebrations among the BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team at the end of the 24-hour race: third place, and with it a spot on the podium at the opening round of the 2021 FIM Endurance World Championship in Le Mans. In the opening hour of the race, this appeared to all intents and purposes to be ‘Mission Impossible’, after a problem with the fuel system saw the team drop well down the field. However, fighting spirit, a strong team effort and the impressive #37 BMW M 1000 RR brought the trio of Markus Reiterberger, Ilya Mikhalchik and Xavi Forés back on course for a podium finish. In an interview, Reiterberger discusses how the ‘24 Heures Motos’ was for him.
An interview with Markus Reiterberger.
Celebrating on the podium
Congratulations on the podium in Le Mans. It was an emotional rollercoaster for you – what was going through your head when you received the trophy on the podium?
“Above all, I was relieved that this tough and exhausting race was over and that it had come to such a nice conclusion: finally a podium in Le Mans! I was delighted for the whole team. And it was also important to score a lot of valuable points for the world championship.”
You impressed during testing, qualified third and took the lead at the start with the #37 BMW M 1000 RR – but you then ended up at the back of the field, due to a technical issue. Did you think it was all over at that point?
“Unfortunately, I had also had a front-wheel slide in the final turn of lap three after the safety car phase, which I was unable to save. As a result, I crashed into the gravel bed. However, even as it was skidding, I was able to protect it from any damage caused by sliding. I practically wrapped myself round the bike so that nothing would happen to it. I then picked it up again immediately in the gravel and was able to continue. That perhaps cost 22 seconds. After that, we unfortunately had the technical issue. But my first thought after the crash was: Oh boy, it’s all over now. You never want to crash in a 24-hour race, or any kind of race for that matter, and it had just happened to me. I thought that was it. But when I saw that I was still 22nd and there was a bit of a gap to the front-runners, I thought: 24 hours is a long time, we can get back to the front in that time. Then came the technical problem, which cost a lot of time. At that point, you lose a bit of confidence. However, we worked our way back through the field really quickly. We were soon back in the top ten and then said to ourselves: Okay, let’s see how far up the field we can get and pick up as many points as possible.”
At what point of the race did you realise that your fightback might take you onto the podium?
“I don’t know exactly when we knew that. However, having made it back into the top ten relatively quickly, we set our sights on the top five. We then achieved that really quickly. We then saw that we would not be able to catch the first two or three bikes without something happening to them, but that we could still get the Bolliger bike in fourth place. And we did precisely that. Then came the thought that anything can happen to anyone in a 24-hour race – and that turned out to be the case: other teams failed to finish and we inherited the place on the podium.”
BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team
What key factors allowed you to come back so strongly and make it back to the front?
“On the one hand, I think it was the team’s tactics for all three riders to set consistent lap times, the way the tyres behaved so consistently, and the efficient fuel consumption that saved us a few pit stops. Plus, the technology then ran like clockwork and the mechanics performed incredibly quick pit stops.”
Werner Daemen’s team has a lot of experience – what are the strengths of the BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team?
“The team has an incredible team spirit, which you can really feel. Every team member is full of enthusiasm and utterly committed. And, in Werner Daemen, we have a team manager who is close to everyone personally. Everyone enjoys working in the team. That is what makes it such a strong team.”
The new BMW M 1000 RR also seems to be in a class of its own. From a rider’s perspective, how good is the bike?
“In the M RR, we have a very good basis motorcycle, which we have refined a little for the Endurance World Championship. It has great potential and I think, in combination with tyre partner Dunlop and the team, that we can take the bike to a new level. It will then really be in a class of its own. That is something we have to work on.”
Third place in Le Mans was a good start. Next up on 17th July is the 12 Hours of Estoril, in Portugal. What is the goal there?
“Estoril was good to us last year. I like the circuit and believe the goal has to be to win. From a technical point of view, this is possible. We just need to work on fine-tuning the package a little and then produce a flawless race. That is our goal. We definitely want to be on the podium, and we want to win.”